Bon Appétit (March 2016)
On Saturday, we had an urge to cook. And we had an urge to see our friends Mark and Ryan. Thus began a text exchange among the four of us: "Want to come over for dinner tonight?"
What followed was a "yes" combined with roughly 50 silly GIFs from Broad City, Girls, and Mean Girls: typical text activity among our friends these days. (Yes, 35-year-old gay guys are basically 14-year-old girls.)
We had been looking for a reason to make this Coconut Chicken Curry with Turmeric and Lemongrass. And we'd also been looking for a reason to not leave our house on a dreary Saturday.
We had dog-eared this recipe in the March "Culture Issue" of Bon Appétit, from their feature "Coconut is the New Quinoa."
Okay, sidebar: Let's talk about Bon App's first-ever "Culture Issue" for a hot second. Frankly, it rubbed us a little the wrong way. Maybe this is just our Inner Grumpy Old Men coming out, but we find the following (real) turns of phrase from the issue annoying:
"Fried Chicken Sandwich FTW!"
"How to Eat Like Yeezy"
"Quick! 'Gram that pizza while it's hot!"
We applaud the magazine for carving out a unique voice -- seriously, you can't say Bon Appétit looks or feels like any other food magazine out there. That's laudable. And we don't even have a problem with devoting an issue to "food culture." But why this narrow focus? Why this culture? The magazine has equated "food culture" with "food culture that urban millennials care about."
Or, more accurately, "food culture that we think urban millennials care about."
Sidebar to our sidebar: It's a constant source of amusement in our household to read articles in which supposed experts extol a "fact" about millennials, and what they like. First of all, as if you can attribute any one thing to a group of 75 million people. But the things that get passed off as facts about millennials never cease to make us laugh. In recent weeks, we have read that millennials "like snacks," that they "have been to so many weddings," that they "don't like doing dishes," and that they "don't want to decorate their own apartment for Christmas, but they still want their parents to decorate in their house."
NEWSFLASH: These are not facts about millennials. These are facts about every 26-year-old ever. Heck, they're pretty much facts about every person of any age. But people get to sound sage because they're giving insight into this mysterious cohort of millennials. It's all just so funny to us.
Anyway, with "The Culture Issue," BA has seemingly traded food expertise for food hipness, or a stab at it anyway. We don't care what Yeezy eats. We don't need a full-page cartoon of an "Anatomy of a Food-Obsessed Millennial." We don't want a two-page spread about what the Broad City girls eat when they're stoned. (And we love those girls! See above re: GIF-ing!)
That stuff is fun, don't get us wrong. But it's not why we read a food magazine. To us, it's akin to if Bon Appétit started running a monthly crossword puzzle, or one of those spot-the-mistakes-in-this-photo pages.
It's just not why we showed up here.
Chef culture and celeb culture are already blended enough. We're cool with Padma; we're fine with Gwyneth. Heck, at this point we're even on board for Chrissy Tiegen [and we have to read her new cookbook].
But when you completely ditch culinary expertise in exchange for multiple features that boil down to "Hey! What's That Famous Person Eating??," well, we're just not excited.
Our Culture Issue qualms aside, we found a lot in the issue we wanted to cook, and we especially loved the recipes in the coconut feature. But on this recent dreary Saturday, the weather demanded a curry.
The good news about this recipe is that although it feels exotic, the ingredients aren't difficult to source. We did have trouble finding fresh lemongrass, but we subbed in a lemongrass paste that was available. The most exotic ingredients beyond that are the optional kaffir lime leaves (we omitted them) and cardamom pods and star anise pods, which you should be able to find at most supermarkets.
Making the dish takes time but isn't difficult: You make a thick spice paste that gives the dish most of its flavor (warning: the raw paste on its own tastes terrible!); you brown the chicken, cook the paste, and then simmer it all in coconut milk with other spices. The finished dish is topped with more toasted coconut, cilantro and chives.
Here's the bad news about this dish: It's so darn delicious that you'll be disappointed there are only four servings. We doubled the recipe, cooking it all in a large Dutch oven, and we suggest you do the same.
This was an ideal dish for a cool night spent around our dining room table. It's warm and homey, but also reads like something that took a lot of effort (not true: just a lot of ingredients and a little bit of time). Plus it's not fussy for entertaining. In fact, our curry was ready an hour before Mark and Ryan arrived, and we just left it to simmer on low on the stove.
We're hoping dreary March Saturdays are behind us. But should they return, we're glad we have this recipe handy.
2 lemongrass stalks
1 large shallot, chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs separated
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods, cracked
2 star anise pods
1 15-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon coconut sugar or light brown sugar
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Chopped cilantro and chives (for serving)
Steamed rice for serving
Remove tough outer layers from lemongrass. Finely grate bottom third of 1 stalk and set aside; discard the rest of the stalk. Trim and discard top third of remaining stalk, then bruise stalk by giving it a few whacks against a cutting board (this helps release the essential oils). Tie it in a loose knot; set aside.
Pulse reserved grated lemongrass with shallot, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, turmeric, and 2 Tbsp. water in a food processor, adding a splash or two of water if needed, until a paste forms.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down, until skin is lightly browned and crisp, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Cook spice paste in same skillet, stirring, until very fragrant, about 5 minutes (it will begin to darken slightly as the water evaporates and the paste begins to fry in the fat left behind).
Add kaffir lime leaves (if using), cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, coconut milk, coconut sugar, and reserved knotted lemongrass to skillet. Bring to a simmer, add chicken, and cook, turning pieces occasionally and scraping bottom of skillet often, until chicken is falling-apart tender and coconut milk has broken (the fat will separate from the liquid and start to brown the chicken and other aromatics), about 1½ hours.
Toast shredded coconut in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
Arrange chicken on a platter and spoon any braising liquid over. Top with cilantro, chives, and toasted coconut. Serve with steamed rice.